Friday, September 26, 2014

Cover Letters 101

By Rachel Rooney, Toppel Peer Advisor

You’ve done it. You’ve submitted your resume and been approved on You’ve been to Career Expo and passed out copies of your amazing and impressive resumes. You are now getting ready to apply for jobs. Ahead of you are applications, resumes, and cover letters. After you make it through, you win an interview. Cover letters are perhaps the hardest part of the application. It’s not the same thing as a personal statement; when I find that I have to write cover letters I end up writing personal statements! Toppel recommends a format for cover letters that is one-two-three paragraphs and then you’re done. 

Paragraph one defines the purpose of your letter: what position you are applying for, why you want it, what you hope to gain and contribute to the company, what skills you have. This is not a place to restate what is on your resume, but you do want to show that you are a qualified and ____ candidate. 

In the second paragraph, focus on the specific position and organization you are applying for. Do your research beforehand and attend employer information sessions held at Toppel. Scroll through the company website and the job description. Mention something interesting you learned from your research and focus on how your skill set would benefit the organization. Give examples of when you had to use your skills and your strengths. 

The final paragraph allows you to take action. Ask to set up an interview or a follow up meeting. Restate your phone number and your email address. Indicate your enclosed resume and thank the reader for his/her time and consideration. Finish with sincerely and your name and you’ll be good to go! 

A few things to watch out for are the length and grammatical and spelling errors. Do not address your letter to “to whom it may concern” instead address it directly to the person. If you do not have a contact, address it “dear hiring manager.” Be sure to include your address and the date at the top of the page, followed by the full address of the organization. 

If you need any help at all, come to walk in hours at Toppel between 10:00 AM and 4:30 PM Monday through Thursday.

Monday, September 22, 2014

After EXPO

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

Many of you attended our Career fair last week to find jobs/internships or network with employers. You’re probably now ready to sit back and relax and let the job offers appear in front of you. Unfortunately, you’re not done yet, but the work still to be done is probably not quite as stressful for you than talking to dozens of companies in one day. Here’s how to get started:

1.Get organized

You want to try to sort out everything that happened at Expo. Make lists of the recruiters that you talked to. Include any business cards you may have received. Spreadsheets are a great organizational tool for this kind of thing. Also, make sure to take notes on conversations you may have had if you didn’t do this earlier. This will be important for when you reach out to the employers so you are able to jog their memories as to who you are and where you met because they more than likely talked to tons of students. 
2. Make sure your LinkedIn is up to date

Linkedin is a fundamental stop for companies that want to research future employees. In your busy life however, you might not always remember to update it regularly. Once it’s up to date and ready  to go, Linkedin is an easy way to connect with recruiters and employers you may have spoken to or been referred to. 

3. Follow up with employers

Definitely reach out to the contacts you have made. You can send an email, message on LinkedIn or a phone call. The mode is less important than the action itself. This should be done 1-2 days after the career fair so you can make as memorable of an impression as possible. Also, don’t be super casual about it. Know what positions you could potentially be hired for at this company and make sure you tie in your skills to this specific position and let them know what sets this company apart to you.

4. Continue practicing your interview skills

You want to make sure you don’t mess up your opportunities if you are given an interview by a company. The more practiced you are, the less nervous you will be. Think up answers to traditional interview questions or schedule a practice interview at Toppel. 

5. Reflect on your experience

This is an important step for determining what to do for the next career fair you attend. Ask yourself what you did well and what you could improve upon. Did you network well? Did you take the right steps to prepare? All of this information will help you be even better the next time you interact with an employer.